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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that CryptoKitties is a website based around blockchain and digital cats. While there's no inappropriate content to be found, some comments about breeding digital cats could raise questions about what they mean. The site does have a heavy promotion on spending cash; users have to install a digital MetaMask wallet and buy Ether, a digital currency, to put in it. That can be a little tricky to figure out -- and costs real money.
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What's it about?
CRYPTOKITTIES is a site that's built using the same technology as Bitcoin, known as blockchain. Users pay to buy and breed virtual cats after setting up a digital wallet and spending money on a form of digital payment. Newly born CryptoKitties have attributes determined by each parent's 256-bit genome and an element of chance; after breeding, each kitty has a cool-down period before it can breed again, and these animals can be sold at auction for breeding with other users' animals. Purchase prices that users set decline until the auction ends. CryptoKitties made headlines after its launch for having hefty transactions, reportedly as high as $113,000.
Is it any good?
This digital cash site is an interesting concept, but its complexity is better left to tech-savvy users. Because it involves a blockchain structure, CryptoKitties could, in theory, offer kids a chance to see the emerging technology in practice. It could also offer dynamic budgeting experience, or a deeper understanding of the way genetics work. To do that, though, the site would need more educationally based content; aside from a few brief FAQ descriptions, there really isn't any material that delves deep into what blockchain technology involves or the ins and outs of how genetic material is passed from generation to generation. In addition, CryptoKitties' pay-to-play aspect is a pretty big detriment. Until you put some money into a digital wallet, you can't really do much on the site, aside from looking at cats that are available for sale and for breeding. In its early days, the site apparently gave out some free kitties; today, to get started, users need a MetaMask digital wallet and some Ether, a form of digital payment. They'll also need a computer or laptop that can run the desktop version of Chrome or Firefox, the only two browsers CryptoKitties works on. Kids could potentially get a chance while playing to make budgeting decisions, but given that they have to exchange real money for digital currency to breed or buy kitties, that's not a scenario all parents may be comfortable with.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about spending money online. Can you use the site without paying anything? Does your child feel that spending money on an activity is necessary to make it fun?
Breeding creates new cats that each have unique characteristics. Discuss what unique traits your child has, and ask: Can you identify some one-of-a-kind attributes in other people?
Talk about respecting differences. Can you think of an example of a situation in which you might be able to make someone feel at ease, if that person was concerned people might focus on something unfamiliar about their appearance, voice, or other physical elements?
- Genre: Gaming
- Pricing structure: Free (Users can view things for free on the site; but to buy, breed, or otherwise participate, you need to spend something. CryptoKitties ranged in late December from 0.0356 to 1010000 ETH; the dollar value varies, but on a recent day was 0.0010 ETH. The site owners take 3.75 percent of each transaction.)
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